The Purposes of Free Speech

[2018] NZLJ 227

5 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019

See all articles by Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2018


This article deals with contemporary free speech issues in New Zealand as they were before the shootings at the Christchurch mosques in March 2019. There have been a number of important developments in recent years, including the abolition of the crimes of criminal libel and slander and also sedition. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 provides that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the right to seek, receive, and imparts information and opinions of any kind. This is subject however to the power of Parliament to override it since the New Zealand Bill of Rights is not superior law. Efforts to reform the law of contempt of court are also before Parliament and are analysed the abolition of blasphemous libel from the Crimes Act 1961.There is some discussion of the Digital Communications Act 2015 and the law contained in the Human Rights 1993 making it an offence to bring into contempt or ridicule any group of persons in New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race or ethnic or national origins of persons. In aftermath of Christchurch shootings there are likely to changes to New Zealand law on these issues.

JEL Classification: K00, K19, K32, K40

Suggested Citation

Palmer QC, Sir Geoffrey, The Purposes of Free Speech (2018). [2018] NZLJ 227. Available at SSRN: or

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

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